The highways are still clogged. I still have to wait for a table at my favorite restaurant. And on Saturday mornings I can’t find a parking spot at the mall. Seems that all that the fear mongering of the media about the current economic climate is doing is forcing patients to clarify what’s most important to them. And by the looks of things, many chiropractors seem to have attracted people who don’t value their health that much. After all, if patients will only avail themselves of chiropractic care if a third party picks up the tab, it doesn’t say much for the priority they place on their health!
Chiropractors who recognize this priority issue, expend enormous amounts of energy trying to get patients to more highly value their health. Most find this not only ineffective, but it distracts them from far more resourceful ways of investing their time and energy.
Turns out, there is little you can do to get patients to more highly prioritize their health. Scare tactics only last until the patient feels better. Annual care plans push away far more patients than they snag. So-called patient education (mostly yakking at patients) simply produces polite nodding. And the “ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” chat rarely manifests in the “twice-a-month” maintenance/prevention/wellness visits many chiropractors dream of.
Allow me to remind you of what does cause patients to reprioritize their health.
Consider what these four circumstances share in common:
Death of a loved one. The passing of a child, parent, friend or partner can have a profound, often immediate effect on someone’s health habits. This not so subtle reminder of our own mortality can often prompt people to clean up their act and assume a renewed sense of self-responsibility. Their resolve may not be long lasting, but many make permanent changes.
A life-threatening disease. If someone manifests a serious health condition and decides they want to be a survivor (it’s a choice, you know), it can induce them to get serious about their health. Whether they choose a passive approach (“Please fix me.”) or an active role (“What can I do to support my recovery?”) determines whether their newfound interest in their health is merely a temporary diversion or a lifestyle decision.
Disability or loss of security. There’s nothing like the threat of losing your job because you can’t physically do it any longer to heighten one’s resolve to attend to health matters. Many are likely to take action if they’re concerned about their dependency on pain relievers, their side effects or some other threat to their well-being.
Sex. Surprised? Imagine the countless people who workout at the gym every day. Sure, some want to be more fit, but many more are hoping to trim down and be more attractive to a potential new partner. The aftermath of a divorce can often refocus one’s health priorities. At least until after the honeymoon.
Did you notice what all four have in common?
They are circumstances in which you have little or no influence in bringing them about. In other words, something happened outside your control, and the individual chose to take action in a particular way—which may or may not include availing themselves of your services.
This is likely to cause one of two reactions. Frustration or peace. Frustration, because there’s little you can do about it. (“There’s got to be a way!”) Peace, because you can stop working so hard at winning over those who aren’t available.
Back to the economy. If what you’re learning about your practice these days is that you’ve been attracting those who only marginally value their health, and only then if their insurance pays for it, that’s helpful feedback. Annoying, but helpful. If this is where you find yourself, you might want to turn your attention to what it would take to attract those who place a higher value on their health.
Which probably means you’ll have to make some changes—rather than expecting patients to make some changes.